Jólabókaflóð is an Icelandic tradition that literally means “Christmas Book Flood.”
It is customary for every person in Iceland to receive at least one book for Christmas, so that means many books are sold during this time of year. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world. A majority of the books published in Iceland each year come out during the Christmas season.
The excitement begins when Bókatíðindi arrives in the mailbox. Bókatíðindi is a catalog, sent free to every Icelandic household, that lists all of the books that are available for purchase in Iceland during the Christmas season. Televised interviews with authors, commercials advertising books, and discussions about new releases are also popular leading up to the holiday. On Christmas Eve, it is tradition to settle in for the night with your new books and read!
More About Christmas in Iceland
- Christmas is known as Jól (Yule).
- Happy/Merry Christmas/Yule in Icelandic is “Gleðileg jól.”
- Jóladagur (Christmas Day/Yule Day) is spent with family.
- The traditional main meal includes a leg of roast lamb called “hangikjöt.“
- Laufabrauð, or “leaf bread,” are wafer-thin deep-fried sheets of pastry with decorative patterns served during the holiday season.
- Icelanders have 13 Yule Lads, “Santas,” that visit one by one in the days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left out by children. If a potato is left instead, uh oh… Learn more with The Legend of the Icelandic Yule Lads by Heidi Herman.
- Grýla is the mother of the 13 Yule Lads. She lives in the Icelandic mountains with her children, her third husband, and a black cat. She is described as being part troll and part animal. She comes down from the mountains every Christmas, in search of naughty children to boil in her cauldron. The Yule Lads come down too – looking for mischief.
- An Icelandic folktale states that everyone must get a new piece of clothing for Christmas. If they don’t, they will be eaten by the Christmas Cat.
(c) Can Stock Photo / AlexLMX